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Sun invites VMware to virtual desktop dance

VDI goes all 2.0

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These days, when you read about a company providing "seamless integration to third-party virtualization technologies," that usually means one thing: a vendor has added support for VMware's software to its own products. And so we find Sun Microsystems following this pattern with the release of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Version 2.0.

VDI may sound like a sexually transmitted disease caught by some lucky server administrator. But it's not.

Instead, the software stands as Sun's virtual desktop play. Customers use VDI to send virtual desktops - be they Windows, Linux, Solaris or Mac OS X - out from the server room and to just about any end device. The VDI software complements Sun's long-standing push around thin clients, and it's more recent virtualization efforts.

One might expect Sun first to link VDI with its own Xen-based xVM hypervisor. But where's the fun or profits in that? So, Sun has included VMware support as the major new feature in Version 2.0.

"The thing we were missing was tight integration with the virtualization layer," Chris Kawalek, a Sun product marketing manager, told us. "In the past, people wanting to use VMware would need to buy a third-party connection broker. Now, we provide that bridge back to VMware."

As we read it, the VDI connector will only allow customers to ship Windows virtual machines to client devices via VMware.

[Update: We're told by Sun that "There are additional features we give you when you're using VMware with Windows virtual machines. However, you could opt to not use those features (things like automatic creation of VMs, dynamic assignment of the VMs to users and so on) and still securely deliver access to a Solaris or Linux desktop environment, if you'd prefer.]

Along with the VMware bit, Sun said the latest release includes features that "allow administrators to create template-based pools of virtual machines that can be temporarily or permanently assigned to a targeted group of users. For example, an administrator could create job description-specific pools of virtual machines such as 'Accountant Desktops' or “Engineer Desktops.' Each pool would contain a virtual machine template already provisioned with the applications and settings most pertinent to its respective group of users. When a virtual machine is assigned to a user, advanced features allow the administrator to define policies that govern the virtual machine's life cycle, providing outstanding flexibility and the ability to delete, reset, or even recycle a virtual machine."

Sun sells VDI for $149 per concurrent user. ®

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